Today is the day residents and stakeholders finally find out just how polluted the Gowanus Canal really is.
After nearly a year since the Superfund designation, the Environmental Protection Agency has released a "remedial investigation" report on the canal, confirming the widespread existence of more than a dozen contaminants in the waterway.
The 144-page report identified the sources of the contamination and characteristics of the canal that will influence future plans for the canal's cleanup. Additionally, an accompanying human and ecological risk assessment established that exposure to some of the pollutants in the canal pose a threat to not just the environment, but also to human health.
“The findings of the investigation of the Gowanus Canal confirmed that contamination of the urban waterway is widespread and may threaten people’s health, particularly if they eat fish or crabs from the canal or have repeated contact with the canal water or sediment,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck in a statement.
“The next step is the review of options for cleaning up the Gowanus, so we can move ahead with a full-scale cleanup of the canal that will result in a revitalized urban waterway,” she said.
The report determined that pollution in the canal was not only caused by past industrial activities, but also by uncontrolled sewage, storm water and other discharges that continue to seep into the waterway.
Among the pollutants found in the sediment and canal water were mercury, lead, copper and polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs, a suspected carcinogen. Though some contaminants were also found in the air surrounding the canal area, none were found at levels of unacceptable risk to human health.
Copies of the report are available at the Gowanus Superfund EPA website and at the of the Brooklyn Public Library.
Christos Tsiamis, the EPA's Gowanus Canal Project Manager, will be present the findings of the report at a public meeting on the evening of Feb. 23 at , Samuel Mills Sprole School.
Now that the remedial investigation has concluded, the EPA’s next move will be a feasibility study outlining all of the options for dealing with the canal’s cleanup.
Before actual cleanup of the canal can begin, there are several issues that must be addressed, including removing debris and sunken vessels near Fourth and Sixth streets.